Oriental Medicine and a Big Juicy Steak

Again, another week has passed and a lot has happened without updating. This time my excuse was sickness. The new kalbi place we went to Friday actually was much better than our usual haunt. The interior is done in folksy wood, and the food had more balance. Sweeter meat. I think they marinated it in Coca Cola.

The weekend wasn’t too eventful, even though I didn’t waste it by sitting around the house. I had some drinks with Brant on Saturday and watched Korea play Turkey in soccer. Sunday I went clothes shopping with SJ. Bought three shirts that are brighter than my usual dreary earth tones. Also found an artsy restaurant that served real honest to goodness quesadillas with guacamole.

Monday’s meeting had its moments. Not happy to let a week go by without annoying the teachers, Eric announced that Saturday was to be cleaning day for the school… and we were to clean it. I was surprised that not a big stink was made right away about it. I guess it was that everyone else was more concerned about open classes and Mrs. Lee being too cheap to set up a closed monitor TV system so parents could watch classes and not distract the kids, per Eddie’s suggestion. It would be even cheaper since I have more experience with hooking up entire TV stations than waxing floors. Teachers were also wondering why Mrs. Lee bought pizza for one of the most awfully behaved elementary classes in the school last week. Eric said he didn’t know because she was in China. Eddie perked up.

“The school is losing money and she goes to China?”

Brant piped in, “Is she looking for even cheaper labor?”

That was a swipe against the cleaning day since we have a clause in our contracts that says we don’t get paid for little extra activities we do for the school, even though waxing the floors is abusing the spirit of that clause. Why pay professional cleaners when you have college-educated teachers who can do it for free?

Eric brought up that the school is under capacity for a building its size. Eddie took that as his cue.

“Look, Eric, all of us foreign teachers are putting in a lot of overtime. I assume that if we’re getting more students that you’re hiring another foreign teacher. What about that part-timer that you were about to hire?”

Eric answered in his broken Konglish.

“Well, it’s been very hard finding part-time foreign teacher. We’re talking to other school about sharing part-time teacher—“

“Why don’t you hire a full-time foreign teacher? I’ll tell you right out it’ll be close to impossible to get a part-time foreign teacher. For one thing, a part-timer would not be living this far away from Seoul. And another thing, it’s illegal.”

Everyone laughed and broke into applause.

The science projects are getting weirder and so inappropriate for this age group. One of this week’s projects included short wires that kids promptly attempted to poke each other with. I cancelled that one right away. Another one came with English flash cards, one of them reading “weathe-
rcock.”

Not only am I supposed to teach them English they’ll never use. I’m supposed to teach them English that doesn’t exist.

One of those “I told you so” events occurred Tuesday afternoon. I had been telling Eric for a while to fix a doorknob in Titan classroom. I was walking to class to find three girls locked inside the classroom. They pulled on the door handle, and it came off. Eddie and I spent a good forty minutes working on this door latch. Claw hammers are your friends. We freed the girls and took apart the rest of the doorknob. We’re now reiterating our warning about the sagging ceiling in Apollo classroom and the windows that now swing wide open because their safeties are broken.

Tuesday night I was up watching TV when I just got hit with a fever. Smacked quickly. Didn’t sleep all night. My head was pounding the next morning, and I could barely walk. But I did manage to take a shower and get dressed and walk to school. I asked Eric if I could go to the doctor when I get a break. Eric told me that Koreans usually self-medicate first before going to the doctor. I knew that was a flat-out lie, but I had no energy to challenge him on that new zinger. He at least went to the pharmacy and got me something for my fever (after I paid him back). Class was hell to get through. After second period, though, Trisha volunteered to take over my kindergarten classes. So I went up to Brant’s place and crashed on a pad he had on the floor. But I had to still teach the most unruly elementary classes I have during the week. You know, back when Sue was the supervisor, she would step in and take over the classes if someone was sick. Not Eric. I guess in his mind, he’s a manager, not a teacher. (Well, I’m a teacher, not a cleaning lady.) I don’t remember much about the last few classes because I was getting delirious by the end. I was also supposed to teach that new girl at the end of the day, but thankfully Brant volunteered to do that for me.

I slogged home, and as soon as I hit my bed, my fever went in full pitch. You could fry and egg on my chest. Brant called to see if I was okay. I think I grunted. I don’t remember. Then SJ called and said she was coming over in thirty minutes and asked if I needed anything. I told her I needed Chilsung Cider, their version of 7-Up.

She showed up at 8:30 and had me drink a shot of this black liquid into which she poured a packet of what looked like silt. It tasted awful in a way that it almost wants to taste good but decides not to. As I curled up in a chilly ball, she proceeded to clean my place and make me soup. All the while she slapped freezing cold compresses on my head and chest and changed them regularly when my excessive body heat would instantly evaporate the water in them. I was delirious, so I talked constantly, not remembering exactly what I said. I do remember saying that I was talking to keep my brain from popping around so much.

She was only there for an hour, but by the time she left, I started feeling better and regaining my appetite. I hadn’t eaten all day. When she left, I ate the soup and went through another night of misery. I finally went to sleep around four and woke up at six forty-five wondering how a bucket of water got dumped on me. I got out of bed and found a wet spot in the shape of my body. It really was a lot of sweat. But my fever had broken. I moved to my pad on the floor and slept until eight forty-five. We had a teachers workshop at eight thirty, but there was no way I was going to that.

Turned out I missed another wonderful fireworks show, this time by the new Korean teacher Jessie. She went off on Trisha on why she shoved a crying girl in her classroom while she was trying to teach. Did she want her to spend the hour teaching or consoling the girl? Trisha kept trying to save face speaking Korean, but Jessie responded to her each time in English to keep the foreigners in the loop. Eric and Trisha committed the professional act of leaving their own meeting. When they left, Eddie closed the door and told the Korean teachers that Jessie did exactly what everyone else needs to do.

I showed up just in time to teach my first class. The day was much better. I was only tired from two nights of little sleep. The fever hit me hard and left me just as quickly. So I felt a new vitality.

Thursday was Outback night, since we get 50% off on that day of the month. Brant insisted on leaving early to get a table. We took the subway and walked to the restaurant. Met the girl at the front, and I tried in Korean to say “14 people.”

She was perplexed.

I got out a slip of paper and wrote “14.”

Still confused. Slightly panicked.

I drew a stick figure next to the 14. She then looked at a script she had at her podium and asked how many people were coming. I pointed again at the paper.

“Fourteen.”

She smiled and guided us to a place to wait while they set up the table. We then came up and waited for a full hour before anyone showed up. In the meantime, some extremely lenient pushover parents were letting their two sons rollerblade from table to table. No, they weren’t wearing those shoes with the little wheels on them. They had rollerblades strapped to their ankles like they were planning to rollerblade at Outback. But we got packed quickly. In fact, we ended up with sixteen people, including a few children, a former Brighton worker, the desk staff, and three college students that Ellen was teaching. I mean, she was taking them to Outback for their class. Eric and Trisha weren’t there, but they weren’t invited after their antics the past three weeks. Besides, it was to celebrate Brant’s birthday.

I was determined not to drink that night, so I had some great freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice. Also had a rare ribeye and my Bloomin’ Onion™. These days, I really only eat beef once a month unless I have a hamburger. So I do enjoy having this steak. It reminded me of home right down to the 4 A.M. heartburn.

Friday I found a closet in a classroom with the doorknob close to a Titan situation. So I spent science class showing the kids how a doorknob worked while dismantling it. Dumbo was my assistant, and a reliable one.

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